Yodels in lederhosen, goatherds with whips: Bavaria hails G7 in style

Soon, images will be circling around the globe of the G7 summit at the Elmau Palace Hotel in the Bavarian Alps – images portraying the rustic, folklore side of Germany’s southern state. Everything will be on show, except for one thing: There will be no rifle salutes.

A girl in a dirndl dress, a lad in knee-length lederhosen, and both holding a bouquet of flowers in the state of Bavaria’s colours of white and blue: This is how the seven most powerful Western leaders will be greeted when they gather in the Alps for the Group of Seven (G7) summit.

If they didn’t know it before, then US President Barack Obama and the other leaders will find out at Munich airport that Germany’s southern state has its own unique folklore style.

For example, there will be the “Gebirgsschuetzen” – a kind of Alpine volunteer rifle regiment – standing to attention on both sides of the red carpet on the Munich airport tarmac while Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer greets and ceremonially escorts the leaders on their arrival.

The G7 summit is to take place next week at Elmau Palace Hotel, nestled in the Alps some 120 kilometres south-west of the state capital Munich. Besides hosts Germany, the participants include the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Britain and Italy.

Bavaria’s folklore side will be very much on display during the two-day affair on June 7 and 8.

“There will be 30 to 40 of us at the airport,” says Max Bertl, chairman of the Bavarian Folk Costume Association. Several clubs will be bringing their traditional flags, and a brass band playing Bavarian oompah music will of course be on hand.

“A couple of children will hand bouquets to the state visitors,” Bertl says.

The association won’t have a problem finding the right mix of folk costumes to choose from, what with 165,000 folk-costume members, plus another 100,000 children and youths.

An expected, 4,000 journalists from around the world, who will be reporting on the summit from the press centre at the nearby resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, will also be given a sampling of Bavarian folk customs.

The evening before the summit starts, the State of Bavaria and the Federal Press Office of Berlin will jointly host a “Bavarian evening” in the Olympic ice-skating arena in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Spokeswoman Daniela Philippi says the state of Bavaria will want to present its best side to the world.

In Bavaria this means men dressed as goatherds and cracking and snapping metres-long leather whips in the air, and a troupe of lederhosen-clad men performing a dance called the “Schuhplattler” – or shoe-slapper. It’s best described as a dance to accordion music, with the men kind of stomping around in a circle and alternately slapping their shoe soles and thighs, punctuated by the sound of some high-pitched hee-hawing.

There will also be Bavarian folk-music groups performing, with a substantial amount of yodelling.

Nor is any Bavarian state occasion complete without the mountain marksmen whose mission is to be the civil defence “guardians” of the region. Now numbering 12,000 members, the riflemen units date back to the 1400s.

However, one key element in the marksmen’s usual performance will be missing: Due to the strict security regulations in place for the G7, they won’t be allowed to fire their weapons

“We really would like to fire a salute” says one marksman, Karl Steininger, referring to the traditional ear-shattering three volleys fired at ceremonial occasions for visiting dignitaries and celebrities. But for Obama and the others, absolutely top security precautions will be in place – meaning no rifle-firing. 

On the evening of the first day of the summit, Bavarian leader Seehofer will be hosting a festive banquet, to which government and state leaders from non-G7 countries will also be invited. This event will take place in the Antiquarium, the Renaissance-style hall of the Muenchner Residenz, Munich’s former royal palace.

So far, little has been divulged about the programme for the wives of the leaders and for Joachim Sauer, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s husband. Possibilities include the Linderhof Castle in Ettal, a violin-making museum in Mittenwald, and an excursion up to some mountainside hut.

One person will be conspicuously absent and missing out on all the Bavarian folklore fun, however: US First Lady Michelle Obama is staying home.

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